CVJ KE-S Review
This review will cover my thoughts on the CVJ KE-S and just so happens to be my first review of a CVJ product. Before I begin, I do want to draw your attention to Kathiravan C’s review of the CVJ KE-S HERE. CVJ seems to be hitting their stride of late by cranking out some well-disciplined iems at their respective price points that generally have all received pretty high praise. Surely, I would love to check out more to corroborate those thoughts. I also want to take a moment to thank CVJ for their kindness in offering the KE-S in exchange for a full review and feature at Mobileaudiophile.com.
I think the greatest battle the KE-S faces isn’t an actual attribute of the earphones themselves, but rather its biggest issue (in my opinion) is the good iems which reside around the KE-S’s price point. Now, I’ve seen the KE-S sold for as low as $8 and so I don’t think they have too much to worry about. Despite that, for only a couple bucks more, one could purchase something like the KZ D-Fi (D-Fi Review), KZ Krila (Krila Review), KZ ZVX (ZVX Review), TangZu Wan’er, Truthear Hola, 7hz Salnotes Zero, or even TRN’s ultra-budget model the TRN MT1 Max (MT1 Max Review), which has dip-switches. You could add about fifteen other sets which are very competitive in this motivated and ambitious price point. You also have sets like the KZ EDXS (EDXS Review), KZ Linglong (Linglong Review) and a host of other iems priced the same as the KE-S that are very well tuned for the price.
Every company is competing for your dollar and attention. The overall quality has improved so much that even iems sold for as low as $9 offer very good sound and I’ll just be up front… The KE-S is one of them. So, for the sake of the length of this review I’m going to cut this introduction a bit short so we can get on with it. Here is my review of the CVJ KE-S…
-Extreme price to performance
-Featherlight and Has a nice fit
-Cool look on a budget
-Deep, punchy, extended bass region
-Midrange has good presence in the mix
-Treble is nicely controlled, non-offensive
-Smooth sound overall with good note body
-Plastic build (should be expected)
-Average Details / Separation
-The treble could use a bit more of an emphasis
-For $9 this set has no real Cons
Gears used for testing
Packaging / Accessories
The CVJ KE-S came to me in a very small rectangular box. The box has some nice artwork displayed on the front of what appears to be some sort of flowery vegetation. Looks nice. Inside of the box you’ll first notice the KE-S in cardboard cut-outs looking all snazzy. Right next to the earphones you’ll see two sets of tips also sitting in foam cutouts. The last set of tips actually come on the KE-S. Under this layer of cutouts is a baggie which has the copper-colored cable. There is nothing too surprising here, as one would expect.
The cable that CVJ adds in the packaging is a QDC style 2-Pin OFC cable. CVJ provides either a “mic” version or a “non-mic” version. I of course will always go with the non-mic version. However, if you do decide the mic is more practical for you, there are working controls on the button of the housing on the mic. I have zero idea how voices sound through the mic. Anyways, the cable looks like a KZ cable but simply different colors.
One of the first things I did was search through my endless mountain of cables for a blue colored cable (to match my KE-S) with a 4.4 balanced connection for my balanced sources. Thankfully I found a blue Tripowin Zonie 4.4 balanced cable. I will also say for sure that the added power helps the KE-S to sound more energetic and dynamic with a punchier bass section, not as big and blunted. Still with that being said, it is a marginal upgrade. If the provided cable is all you have then you’re in luck because it is a solid cable for a $9 set of earphones.
The eartips the CVJ hands out with this set are not great, at least for me. The included tips are a bit too flimsy, and I do think the KE-S benefits from a firm stem, firm flange and semi-wide bore. I simply could not get a good seal with the included tips. I actually decided to instead use some Fiio “Bass” Tips that they usually add with every Fiio set. These tips are actually identical to the KBear 07 tips in every way except they are colored orange/gray. So, if you have some 07’s laying around, they will work wonders for the sound. There are some wide-bore tips I used which sound nice too but not an upgrade from the Fiio tips and the Fiio tips fit better so… Fiio tips it is.
Build / Design / Internals / Fit / Drivability
Build & Aesthetic
I think the build of the KE-S is about what you should expect from a set costing $9 US. Of course, there are outliers like the EDXS and such which do have a great build for this price. However, this is not to say the build isn’t a good one. The build is practical, light as a feather and extremely comfortable. Made out of two pieces of likely high-temp molded plastic resin the KE-S is formed without any burrs, defects or oddities from the molding process. The plastic used is a nicely hard and robust plastic. The shape is a typical iem shape with that formed underbelly which sits against the ear. It’s almost as though CVJ molded these from my ears because wow do they fit well!! The nozzle is medium length and probably, if I’m guessing, 6mm in width at the tips. CVJ finished the nozzles off with a nice metal grill. We have two small port vents, one closer to the rear and one closer to the nozzle. The build is not bad at all.
I like the look of the KE-S. My set is all clear-blue, but you can also get the KE-S in a couple other colorways. I believe they come in a clear-yellow and clear-black as well. I happened to like the blue a bit more and I’m happy with the look. It has a slightly modern design on the faceplates with the words “CVJ KE-S”, “Acoustics” & “Dynamic” imposed in white lettering and following the pattern of the design. As you can see in the pictures. In fact, I don’t even know why I write this out to you all when I add a million pictures in my reviews. Anyways, the look isn’t bad, it doesn’t look bad on the ear either.
CVJ decided to use a Dual-Coil Magnet 10mm Dynamic Driver. Nothing out of the ordinary and no new tech involved with this one. Just a low-priced Dynamic Driver in a pretty common type housing.
Like I’ve already stated, the fit is great. I had no problems getting a good seal so long as I used the right tips. Once the seal was good, I found that isolation is actually very good. I had no issues with outside noises coming in. Also, there’s not a lot of noise leakage. I have zero idea how well this will fit any of you, but I’m assuming that it will fit the majority of hobbyists quite well.
This is an easy set to drive folks. Rated at 22 ohms and with a sensitivity of 116 db’s the KE-S is a very simple and easy set to drive from any source. Even my IPad drove this set well without any issues. I actually used my Fiio UTWS5 and found that this was an awesome pairing while doing work around my house or sitting in my office. In truth, I would suggest you use at least a decent Dongle Dac for this set. Believe it or not the KE-S does get slightly better with a little more juice. Using my Moondrop Dawn 4.4 was a nice setup with the KE-S. I think it’s more neutral, Analytica, l yet wholly dynamic sound is a perfect partner to the KE-S. I also did a lot of critical listening with the Shanling M6 Ultra and this too was obviously a nice pairing.
So, if you have only a smartphone or cheap Mp3 player you are in business with the KE-S. Still, it will reward you for a bit more power as well as better source fidelity. I’d strive for a decent Dongle Dac. Nothing expensive is needed. Something like Abigail would be perfect and all you need. Nothing crazy.
The CVJ KE-S has a very full sound for something at this price. I think they sound great for $9. There is this warmer type of full-figured macro-dynamics that fills all the space in my mindscape. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t, but the sound is very nice for a $9 iem. Heck double that. The KE-S has a warmer type of sound which gets cast across the mix. The KE-S is a V-shaped set meant for fun and head bobbing. The low-end is rumbly, deep and great for bass drops and heavy kick drums. The midrange is musical more than analytical, and so it treasures smoothness and groove over dryness and technical abilities. The treble is also smoother with a very non-offensive and safe treble. The soundstage is not bad, average in size but immersive, and the detail retrieval is also about average for a set under $20. All in all, this is a warm and musical sounding iem with a full and robust presentation.
The bass is in my opinion the star of the show. I find the bass to be very heavy and deep in extension with a good haptic feel and plenty of slam. The sub-bass can get down low and gritty when needed as CVJ made sure to give the KE-S plenty of emphasis in this region. It’s heavy, broad and robust. On a track like “Motherless” by Killer Mike I find the bass to be bold and dense. This is a fun bass folks but yet I don’t feel it is too muddy for the signature. We know it’s tuned for a bassy but musical experience, as with any set in this price point. Trust me I’ve heard plenty with actual “MUD” and the KE-S is not one of them. Nope, the sound is deep, and you feel it very well in the sub-bass.
The mid-bass slams! It hits with plenty of gusto and does so when called upon and does tend to color the rest of the mix a bit. Nothing that is a huge detriment. Again, this is a $9 V-shaped iem and so yes, they put an emphasis in the low-end which makes sense to me. Is it going to be a bit much for someone who loves something like the 7Hz Zero? Yes, it probably will be. However, if you are into tracks like “Money on The Dresser” by Young Thug… then you’ll enjoy this set. The bass has a softer leading edge but has very nice density and isn’t hollow in any way. Bass guitar is a slight bit too emphasized but kick drums sound thick with a nicely resonant echo in harmonics.
All in all, the bass is nice. I know what this set was made for and therefore this is the scale to which I must weigh the KE-S. It’d be mighty unfair if I was grading this set to an audiophile standard when that is not what it was tuned for. The KE-S has a warm bass that slaps. Not quite basshead but they hit hard. This isn’t a super slow bass either, but it isn’t quick. It is atmospheric and decays naturally I would say.
The lower midrange presents male vocals as thick, warm, full and with a smooth body. I feel males are a bit reserved and recessed but still command a decent presence in the mix. They have good note weight and structure. In fact I quite like male singers with this set. Listening to Jason Mraz’s track, “Pancakes and Butter” is a good test as the bass is huge on this track. I did notice that the bass overshadows his vocals when he sings a little lower in the register. However, his voice has a good sound and timbre. Male vocals sound best on the KE-S when there is less of a bass presence. Like on acoustic tracks or tracks where the vocals take center stage such as “Azalea Blooms” by Muscadine Bloodline. The KE-S absolutely slays on these male vocals. Really they sound very nice.
Female vocals have nice note body with a more energetic and lively sound than males. I find females to win over the midrange, like in the song “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo. Her voice has a nice brightness to it, with some levity or lift. I also notice that there is a slightly crisper leading edge in the upper midrange. Perceivably tighter transients too. Just cleaner altogether. I notice the upper midrange instruments either benefit or are taxed by the elevation in the low end, but mostly they come across full and weighted with a fun timbre and good musicality. I find most females are represented similarly. This area is not as warm as the lower half and so I hear better clarity and resolution here. For a $9 V-shaped iem the KE-S is very nice in this area.
The midrange as a whole tends to lean lush over crisp and slow over quick, which lends itself to more smooth and slower groove type tracks with rich undertones. I say that but the midrange is still nicely melodic. It just presents this musical and melodic sound in a more humid and less airy environment. Details in this region are not its specialty either. You won’t pick up all the small stuff and tiny minutia within a track like you would a more technically sound iem like the KZ Krila for example. Of course, those are two completely different sound signatures. I just want you to know what to expect. You can expect a harmonious and colored sound that is actually nice for vocals and is more musical than it isn’t. Yes, there are issues, but I promise, you won’t be let down with the sound of this set.
The treble comes across emphasized with nice levity up top but also is pretty safe. It sounds lustery enough to be illuminated without crossing the line to shrill or tinsley or peaky. Even on my shouty tracks the KE-S sounds reserved and easy to get along with. Still the treble is pretty lively without sounding strident and you won’t hear any sibilance either. For the most part the greatest emphasis in the treble is located near the upper-mid/lower treble region which does offer instrumentation and female vocals some slight shimmer. I find that there is enough of a lift in the treble to somewhat offset the heavier bass region. Still, it’d be nice for a little bit more treble grit and bite. Or a bit more contour and note definition but I must keep in mind that the KE-S costs $9.
Instruments like the piano sound resounding enough, colored in sound with a certain euphony to the piano. Cymbals do have a bodied chisk and don’t come across splashy at all. Percussion in general is full bodied. Instruments like the Violin sound great to me, trumpet in this region has a brassy richness to it as well.
The treble region isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination and extension into the highest of highs past 10k is actually decent. Still, the treble is pretty easy going and I know this pleases many listeners. Could it use a bit of extra treble brilliance or luminance? Of course, it could. Is the sound still very well done as a whole? Sure it is, depending on what style of sound signature and tonality you gravitate towards. I don’t want to confuse anyone though, this treble will not please any treble Heads and is more laid back than it isn’t.
The Soundstage is slightly more intimate, but it also fills the entire soundscape in my mind. Meaning, it sounds as though everything is just big and closer to the listener, but that image stretches very wide and tall. It doesn’t sound like I’m listening to an enormous stage a few rows back. More like a few feet in front of the band… on the stage. So, what would you call a stage like this…”Big Intimate”. I hope I am saying this so that you understand. I actually quite like the stage on this set. It isn’t flat, or a wall of sound. There is a tad bit of depth to the sound too. Nothing that will make layering a breeze but enough to add a more realistic perspective. I think the stage is pretty good actually.
Separation / Imaging
Separation is not the KE-S’s superpower. We have a big, close/intimate sound with bigger basses and not a ton of air in the sound. The KE-S is pushed so far to the dynamic, warm, & fun side of things that analytical, technical and detailed are simply not it’s bread and butter. So, with that said, I also don’t think the KE-S’s ability to separate elements within a stage is particularly bad either. It’s average and at $9 this is what we should expect. Listen, I don’t think anyone is purchasing the KE-S for its resolving abilities and its technical prowess. That’s not what this set is, and we shouldn’t expect it to be. Imaging on the other hand is actually not bad at all. Pretty good. I’d say that things get murky in complicated tracks and sounds begin to converge a little. All things considered, for $9 it all sounds good though.
I consider the KE-S as average in the detail department. Not horrible at all. For $9 I find the KE-S quite good actually. It’s amazing what you can get for so cheap. Again, the KE-S is tuned for a non-dressy, casual and fun sound. The KE-S is tuned to be rhythmic, smooth and it’s supposed to make your head bob up & down. This set is not meant to sit in your favorite chair, quietly distinguishing all the finest elements of your favorite live track. It simply isn’t that. However, average is good. This means you can hear your music and it isn’t a mishmash of sounds converging. Again, on complicated and congested songs you will hear some blending but for the most part you are getting what should be expected. All things considered, the KE-S sounds very nice and detailed enough for most genres. It just isn’t the same as something like a Krila which is quite literally tuned to illuminate the small stuff.
Note: I am not going to go very in depth comparing anything here. Please understand that I’m trying to keep my reviews to a manageable length that isn’t too bothersome. Especially with ultra-budget sets. Not that they aren’t worthy of a lengthier approach, but I believe you can easily get the gist of how they compare in a more condensed version than I would otherwise do. Also, this is not a duel to the death. I’m not trying to crown one set over another. I compared to explain the iem I am reviewing. I will always work this way.
KZ EDXS ($9)
The KZ EDXS (EDXS Review HERE) is KZ’s ultra budget offering that received some very good impressions. The EDXS is a single Dynamic Driver with also a V-shaped sound that strikes a nice dynamic balance. The EDXS has a very nice build for the price as you would usually have to pay twice this price or more for this build.
Between the two I find that both sets offer a good build quality, but KZ has an alloy faceplate to the EDXS which adds a nice visual element. As far as looks I think both sets are nice looking and both sets will look tough strolling down the road jamming out to your favorite jams. Both are basically identical as far as accessories are concerned as well.
I’ll make this pretty quick. As far as sound is concerned, both iems do a fine job of representing a fun and expressive sound signature at a very low cost to the buyer. The KE-S comes across heavier in note weight with livelier macro-dynamics while the EDXS generally has a better balance across the mix.
Bass is bigger and thicker on the KE-S and it’s pretty noticeable. However, both sets can bang down low with deep basses when called upon. The KE-S simply has a much more robust and authoritative sound in the bass region. I find the EDXS has the tighter low-end of the two but the difference is negligible.
The midrange of the KE-S is more forward, slightly better resolution too. The KE-S is also smoother with more coloration to the sound while the EDXS has a better detailed midrange, but the difference is marginal at best. Note weight goes to the KE-S and note definition goes to the EDXS. The KE-S is more vibrant than the EDXS with a more luminous upper midrange.
The treble of the EDXS has better detail retrieval (debatable) even though the KE-S comes across brighter in the treble, more vibrant and lustery. The EDXS is the set which seems to have better air between instruments up top while the KE-S has a smoother and more lush sound in the highs. The EDXS is a bit more laid back.
One of the biggest differences is in the stage size and fullness which really begins to separate these two sets. The KE-S simply has a livelier and expressive stage with bigger macro-dynamics that fills the entire soundscape much better. The EDXS comes across flatter and more panned-out, whereas the KE-S is more forward and more grandiose. I find separation to be better on the EDXS as there is more space between elements on the stage. I’d also say that Imaging is about the same on both sets, with the EDXS faring better on complicated tracks.
To be honest these two trade blows pretty well. I do think the KE-S is the more ardent and colorful of the two with the more musical sound. The EDXS is the better set for a less fatiguing experience.
TRN MT1 Max ($12)
The Tarn MT1 Max is a set I recently reviewed (MT1 Max Review HERE) at Mobileaudiophile.com and I was impressed. It’s amazing what one can get for under $15. The MT1 Max is a single DD which comes fully equipped with dip-switches to change up the sound to your liking. The MT1 Max is a fine iem for the price.
I like the build of both sets but each is made out of plastic type resin. I am a bit partial to the look of the MT1 Max but that’s subjective, they both look nice for the price. Both sets obviously and reasonably come with sparse accessories as well.
I found the MT1 Max to be a bit warmer than the KE-S with a more laid-back sound that is less immersive. The KE-S just sounds bigger in all ways with more dynamism and the more fun sound of the two. Somehow the MT1 Max seems a bit flatter and more dialed back in macro-dynamic punch to the KE-S.
Without question the KE-S can lay down the bass with a more stalwart and heftier low-end. The sub-bass reaches deeper, and you can feel it more. The mid-bass thumps harder. Both sets don’t exactly have a concrete hard surface at leading edge, and I perceivably hear a more atmospheric decay/sustain on both sets. I say this but the MT1 Max still can get busy down low, and it’s bass has a nice emphasis, but it can’t match what the KE-S can do down low. You’ll notice the graph below shows a greater bass emphasis on the MT1 Max but I do not hear this at all.
The MT1 Max is simply more docile and toned down (in any switch orientation) in the midrange. Males are thinner in note weight on the MT1 Max as well as females. The KE-S has a little more lift in the upper midrange and comes across more shimmery. Of the two the KE-S is also the smoother sounding set in this region. Vocals in general sound better on the KE-S to me. Now they won’t change your life I don’t think but between the two, I do like the more present sounding KE-S. Perhaps details within the midrange are better delineated on the MT1 Max and there is a bit better separation in the midrange on it as well.
The MT1 Max has a warmer treble region with less sparkles and shine. The KE-S has the more engaging and energized treble region. Neither set offer treble heads something to get excited about but of the two the KE-S comes closest. The KE-S has better extension up top with a crisper sound as well.
The soundstage of the KE-S is more immersive and engrossing with about the same width, taller in height and a hint deeper. Just like the last comparison the MT1 Max sounds flatter in comparison to the full sounding KE-S. Neither set are perfect and neither offer a concert hall experience but again, the KE-S comes closer to achieving it. Details on the MT1 Max may have a slight edge but I don’t think either set is tuned for this purpose. Separation goes to the MT1 Max as the KE-S is smoother and not as definite in its notes as the MT1 Max. Imaging is about the same on both iems.
Between the two I think the KE-S may be a better buy. For one, it sounds more dynamic, fun, expressive and big. The KE-S is more musical and melodic, more mood enduring and charming in sound. The MT1 Max does have dip switches to experiment with, which is cool. But is it enough to spend the extra money for it?
Is it worth the asking price?
I have to be honest. At $9-10 US I don’t think there is a better iem. There are a couple that give it competition and can make a case. No doubt about it. However, the KE-S is very well done for what it is. Yes, there is issues, but what issues can we really describe as “issues” at this price. It’s hard to find much fault here folks. The sound is very immersive, truly. The sound is big on all sides, albeit a bit closer to the listener and intimate. I truly don’t think there is anything that destroys the KE-S “sound-wise” right now. Of course, I haven’t heard everything in the price point so please comment any sets that may be able to perform better. Really friends, for $9 CVJ made a set that is pretty impressive and if you have only $10 in your pocket then I would REC the KE-S all day long. A bona-fide stud at this price. Made for fun, dynamic and it’ll move your feet. Absolutely, without question the CVJ KE-S is worth every penny.
Will there be detractors? Well of course, what’s an iem without haters. However, due to the lack of true competition in the price point I think this one (KE-S) is hard to argue with or to pass up. All of them (under $12 iems) are mostly V-shaped, bigger bass, mostly trumped-up treble and for the most part every set around this price is made for fun. You might as well check out one of better tuned “fun” sets in the CVJ KE-S.
Note: all ratings are based upon my subjective judgment. These ratings are garnered against either similarly priced sets or with similar driver implementations or styles with the unique parameters of my choosing. In the case of the CVJ KE-S ratings below, that would be “under $12 iems” in any configuration. Please remember that “ratings” don’t tell the whole story. This leaves out nuance and a number of other qualities which make an iem what it is. A “5” is exactly average and please take into consideration the “lot” of iems these ratings are gathered against. Only ranking sets under $12 is a smaller pool so higher ratings should be expected for the better sets. My ratings are never the same and each set of ratings tells a different story. Each time you read one of my ratings it will be unique to that review. Basically, I create a Rating that makes sense to me.
-Build Quality: 8.0
-Accessories: -.- (At this price Accessories don’t apply)
These Ratings are actually pretty cut ‘n dry. There is not a large pool of iems under $12 for the KE-S to truly compete against. We’ve had some bangers from KZ and TRN as well as CVJ but none that really trumps the KE-S in sheer fun and dynamism.
The only questionable ratings I think I gave were “technicalities” and “timbre”. As far as technicalities this could go either way. If you are rating this set based on audiophile principles, then the KE-S would probably not rate as high and the same actually goes for timbre as well. No, the KE-S is not the most natural sounding iem, not completely unnatural either. However, the color to the sound makes it fun, and I think that is what the KE-S was created for. As far as technicalities are concerned, detail retrieval isn’t the best, about average. But the soundstage fills my entire mindscape’s sound field. Of course, it’s close to the listener but it’s big, immersive and enjoyable. Imaging is actually well accomplished too, so against the pool of iems I think an 8.5 is legit for technicalities.
Everything else is where I truly think the KE-S lands based on the iems I’ve heard under $12. I could’ve pushed the price point to $20 but I don’t think that really helps the consumer. Let’s put it this way, if you can afford a $20 iem then you’ll get a $20 iem. People who struggle with paying for a $9 set need to know what’s the best at that price point and nothing above. In my opinion. At least that’s how it was for me when I was there in my own life. I truly think the CVJ KE-S is a very nice set.
To conclude my full written review of the CVJ KE-S I first want to say a big thank you to CVJ for providing the KE-S for a review and feature at Mobileaudiophile.com. I also want to thank you, the reader. I do hope this review helps you find the perfect iem for you. As always, I want to also push you a bit to check out other reviews and get different perspectives about the KE-S. Every review I say the same thing, we all have different opinions, likes & dislikes. We may have different libraries of music, favorite genres, shoot… We may have different hearing abilities and most importantly we all haven’t been down the same audio journey. It will pay to check out as many perspectives that you can so to make a more educated decision. Thank you very much and please take care, stay safe and God Bless.